Slowly Slowly release their new album, 'Race Car Blues', 28 February, 2020.
For Slowly Slowly frontman Ben Stewart, the 18-month creative process that birthed the Melbourne band’s third album, ‘Race Car Blues’, belied the group’s name.
It wasn’t an incremental, steady as she goes test run but rather a full-throttled, high octane careening around the race track, which Ben white-knuckled all the way to the finish line.
The album ends not with a fade-out or a final strum of jangling guitars, but rather with several seconds of Ben hyperventilating into the microphone after screaming the refrain “I miss myself, my friends do too” on title track ‘Race Car Blues’.
“For me [music] is an obsessive thing. It’s a compulsion. I’ve just succumbed to it in the past 18 months.” - Ben Stewart
It is a fitting end to an album on which Ben found himself by giving in to his compulsion to create. But, as he explains, opinions were divided within the band about whether to keep his gasps for air on the album.
“We actually tossed up whether to keep that in for a little bit,” Ben admits.
“There was a bit of 'should we? Is it the right note to leave on the end?' For me it was 100 per cent; that’s what I had envisaged before we’d even tracked it and heard it back. I’d always had it in my head as a thing.
“That growing motif in 'Race Car Blues' that gets repeated in the outro, I sang that ten times in a row yelling it in my room, because I tracked the vocals to the song; the tenth time, I kept going and I was out of breath and sweating, and I really wanted to capture that.”
'Race Car Blues' offers Ben one of those rare artistic moments of creative flow. “That song for me was my favourite song that I’ve ever written. I love that song. I love what it represents to me and I knew as soon as I’d written it that that was going to be the name of the album and that was going to be the closer.
“You rarely get those moments where everything is so clear. With music, everything is a constant wandering around in the dark with a flashlight going 'oh that’s a good idea' and then the next ten ideas suck. You rarely get these moments when all the dominoes all line up.”
On 'Race Car Blues', Slowly Slowly have lined up 12 dominoes of different colours and shapes, ranging from Blink-182 and Jimmy Eat World-style upbeat punk like ‘Creature Of Habit’; stadium rockers like ‘Soil’ reminiscent of Kiwi powerhouse Shihad; and stripped-back, acoustic ballads ‘How It Feels’ and ‘Superpowers’ that evoke comparisons to Paul Dempsey.
The album, which already boasts one hit ‘Jellyfish’, may be eclectic, but its diversity reflects the vision for the band Ben has had since their formation.
“I remember when we first started the band, we were talking to a few industry people who had come to a couple of shows and they were like 'we’re trying to understand where this band sits; is it an acoustic project or a rock band' and it always made sense in my head; just wait until we do it and then people will understand.
scenestr VIC cover Feb 2020
“It’s nice that we’ve built this understanding of Slowly Slowly and we can live in both worlds and be fine. It’s just funny how it’s evolved and now it’s much easier for people to grasp. I love that we can have peaks and troughs on an album, and have the stripped-down stuff and still be in the same world. It’s a real privilege.”
According to Ben, 'Race Car Blues' is a new 'creative' high-water mark for the band because – as he explores on 'Michael Angelo' – he has finally embraced his true identity as an artist, which allowed him to begin painting the ceiling on his own Sistine Chapel.
“For me [music] is an obsessive thing. It’s a compulsion that I’ve always had in me. I’ve just succumbed to it in the past 18 months. This is me, I’m not going to put up with the day job anymore, I can’t put on the different masks to get through the week.
“When I’m at the desk writing music, when I’m on stage, that’s my happiness, that’s when I feel myself the most, so I just do myself and I was lucky to sort of be going through a period where I’d broken a dam wall and there was just this deluge of things that I wanted to write about all the time, not just lyrically but also music was coming very easily to me and captured a really driven 18 months.
“Since handing it in, after having some deep breaths to reflect on it, it was seriously a very immersive time.”
While it has taken time, Ben is now not only comfortable in the studio but also on stage, and he and the band are pumped to have a dozen new tracks to take on the road. “From a band that started as a studio project, we have evolved into a band that really feels at home on stage and have done a lot touring in Australia over the last couple of years.
“To say we are excited to take these new songs on stage and remodel our set, it’s like getting a whole bunch of new toys to play with. We get to shape our set a bit differently with a couple of different moods to what we’ve done in the past, and I love live shows.”
Fri 17 Apr - Manning Bar (Sydney) Sat 18 Apr - The Triffid (Brisbane) Fri 15 May - 170 Russell (Melbourne) - sold out Sun 17 May - 170 Russell (Melbourne) Fri 22 May - Badlands Bar (Perth) Fri 29 May - Altar Bar (Hobart) Sat 30 May - Saloon Bar (Launceston)